Thursday, September 30, 2010

"Goetia," Patience, pt. 11, 418 words

Legally, it's somewhere between a fifty-some-odd member group civil union and a limited-liability corporation, though some members are bound together through some form or another of religious marriage. They compose the Solar system's most far-flung economic commune, with members in every colonized gravity well and beyond. And if the drone lands safely, their collective wealth will jump through the roof, with the exploitable resources of an asteroid under their control. Sitri will take a ding to her personal stock value when she gets fired from StarGen once this gets out, but that's something she could not care less about if someone paid her to.

Sitri won't even be the one receiving the drone's confirmation signal once it lands, despite being closest to it. By the time it impacts, The Sanity Box will be well underway on the next leg of its search (and gone through more than a dozen new nicknames), with an unknown plotting vector. Andrealphus, meanwhile, will be on Phobos – a far better choice than any other member of the Goetia in terms of proximity, clear space, and known location for the drone to transmit its confirmation signal.

And best of all, out of this whole mess? The drone's seed AI, Morax the Great Earl and President, Governor of 30 Legions and with a waiting seat in the Goetia executive board, will be smart enough and have the means to expand to other asteroids. Add in some simple telepresence to get a “real-born” intelligence signing off on claims and discoveries (AI rights are still stalled for various political and philosophical reasons, not least of which is the question of whether they're truly intelligent yet or just very good simulations, and also because it's one of the most acceptable remaining bigotries reinforced by neophobic science fiction that fears a robot uprising), and the Goetia will be looking at a steep increase in wealth for a long while yet.

Trapped in a tiny ship now void of air, Sitri rigs the security and damage control logs to reflect a micrometeorite impact in the area of the railgun, an event that accidentally kicked off the black box drone and sent it mewling into the outer system. By the time a StarGen inspector will get a chance to look at the ship, in another one and a half years, the hole will have long since been repaired, new atmosphere synthesized from the alchemy tanks, and all damaged materials and the “micrometeorite” dumped into the tanks for processing.

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